Agents of Shield took its sweet time to get going during its first season run. A show that promised to expand on the world that Marvel had created in their cinematic universe, Agents of Shield struggled to find a foothold, wanting to simultaneously be part of Marvel’s larger universe but also stand on its own; more often than not it fell somewhere between the two. It was only after the release of Captain America: The Winter Solider that the show really got going, offering up a strong run of episodes in the latter half of the season, after the revelation that evil organization Hydra had managed to infiltrate Shield, resulting in the dissolution of Shield and allowing for some decent dramatic turns for its characters.
Last night’s season two opener, ‘Shadows’, hoped to continue the quality of last season’s strong run, with Coulson and his team hiding from government authorities, while single handedly taking on the remnants of Hydra whilst trying to salvage what remains of Shield itself.
Paving the way for her own series, due sometime in the new year, Hayley Atwell’s Agent Peggy Carter and the Howling Commandos make a welcome return in a WWII prologue, as they raid a Hydra facility, full of gloriously dangerous and mysterious goodies including the original 084 MacGuffin that became a major plot point of the episode.
Flash forward to the present day and we find Shield all but a shadow of what it once was. Hunted by the military (represented here by Adrian Pasdar’s General Talbot), and lacking in resources, our team is underground, with newly appointed director Coulson struggling to rebuild the fledgling organization.
Skye has been upgraded from annoying computer nerd, to fully-fledged field operative; the traitorous Ward has been remanded in an underground prison, while poor old Fitz is clearly not the same person following his near death experience at the end of last season. We are also introduced to a few new team members including Nick Blood’s Lance Hunter and Lucy Lawless’ Agent Hartley.
The plot this week centres on a mysterious obelisk, with less than friendly properties. Hot on the obelisk’s trails is Hydra and Carl Creek, aka the ‘Absorbing Man’. As his name would suggest, Creel can absorb any material he touches. Unlike last season, in which we had a bog standard ‘Freak of the Week’, Creel is a hired gun of Hydra’s, a formidable adversary who makes for an imposing presence. He makes an impact right out the gate, snapping an ex-shield agent’s neck in the opening moments, before making a nifty escape from a military facility and killing two more shield agents, including Lawless’ Hartley.
It’s a shame that they killed off Hartley so early in this season, as Lawless is a fan favorite, but it was a twist that suggested that pretty much anything can happen this season.
What’s great about this episode is that, as well as being quite action packed, it also did a good job of laying the groundwork for what’s to come. The raid on Talbot’s military compound, to relieve it of the Quinjet, highlighted the new dynamic that the decimated Shield team now faces in the world. Essentially rogue assets who must operate covertly and “in the shadows” as Coulson puts it, while enough mystery was established, including Grant Ward’s sly nod to knowing about Skye’s father, and also the mysteriously ageless Hydra agent Whitehall.
For me, Fitz is the highlight this week. Iain De Caestecker’s strong performance, as he stumbles over his words, is poignant and strikes the right side of tragic without being overly dramatic. His interaction with Simmons is pitch perfect once again, which makes the final revelation that he’s been talking to himself all along, all the more tragic. Which raises another question. Where’s Simmons and what’s she up to?
Overall, it’s a strong start to season two; a fast paced, action packed episode that does a lot in a short space of time. Here’s hoping they keep the pace up.